How has Deleuze been applied to education?

Dave Harris 2013


There are several examples of the usual approach, which I think is flawed (I will explain why later). You pick some concepts, show how you can use them to support your views, make a big thing about how inspired you were (no-one likes calm and serious analysts --they are probably male aspergics). Try these....


St Pierre (2004) and others have coped with Deleuzian material by adopting a selective and pragmatic approach to the works, seemingly sanctioned by Deleuze himself. St Pierre quotes him saying that ‘If [the book] doesn’t work, if nothing comes through, you try another book’. As always with Deleuze, there are ambiguities though, and this could be read as lofty indifference to criticism: in the same section (Deleuze, 1995: 8) the ‘harsh critic’ being addressed in this remark is specifically accused of showing ressentiment, for example, and largely dismissed.


The ambiguities in reading Deleuze haunt any attempt to operate, say, by finding direct quotations in Deleuzian work in support of conventional positions. For example, we can read that: ‘once again we turn to children (for creative unconventional thinking)’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004: 284), and ‘[there is a] grotesque image of culture that we find in examinations and government referenda as well as the newspaper competitions…  Be yourselves -- it being understood that this self must be that of others’ (Deleuze 2004: 197). However, before we can align Deleuze with conventional child-centred approaches, we also read that ‘Works under the influence of drugs, madness, or work by children’ tend to be interesting but ‘extraordinarily flaky , unable to preserve themselves’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994: 165) and ‘it is hardly acceptable…  to run together a child’s nursery rhymes, poetic experimentations, and experiences of madness…  [and] justify the grotesque trinity of child, poet, and madmen’ (Deleuze, 1990: 82-83). 


In another example, Deleuze’s lecture on Spinoza (Deleuze, nd) talks about ‘automatic’ learning, where people encounter experiences which force them to develop more and more embracing and shared notions, and this certainly can look like an endorsement of community education. In another passage, however, ‘Spinoza employs the term “automaton”: we are, he says, spiritual automata, that is to say it is less we who have the ideas than [that] the ideas...are affirmed in us’ (Deleuze n.d., no page numbers). In a piece discussing the effects of cinema especially, Deleuze (2000) implies even that some automatic direct connection with brain circuitry is central to learning. Almost in an opposite direction, Deleuze sees learning to swim as a deeply philosophical matter where we must ‘conjugate the distinctive points of our bodies with the singular points of the objective Idea in order to form a problematic field’ (Deleuze, 2004: 205).


Actual attempts to put Deleuze to work immediately include those of Sellers and Gough (2010: 591) who seem to have experienced something like an infusion of grace and who write lyrically about how they were inspired, permitted to philosophise, and produce ‘interactive and intertextual and picturing performances on art and science ...hypertextual picturing of writing/reading for reviewing...demonstrating continuities with/in/among Deleuzian concepts...thought experiments...and comparable imaginative practices’. It is very difficult to summarize the free-floating stuff which ensues, interspersed with drawings, photographs, emails between the two of them and sketches from Sellers’s childhood notebooks, indicating how ‘The few times I have felt at ease have been in situations of my own devising, albeit often stimulated by a teacher’ (2010: 605). I include long quotes instead so you can not only see but feel the effect.


They begin by saying we should not just grab particular concepts from Deleuzian work and use them as metaphors. No names are given, but they might include some of the pieces summarized below.  Instead:


In this essay we inter-picture-and-text-ually extemporise our genealogical and generative work with Deleuzean conceptual creations (accompanied by what we call ‘exhibits’) with a view to moving readers beyond merely using select metaphors presented by Deleuze and Guattari (e.g. nomadism, rhizome, lines of flight, smooth and striated spaces). We deliberately distance ourselves from those who ‘use’ Deleuze by appropriating metaphors that were never intended as metaphors, preferring to work towards generating discoursespractices that challenge such a deployment of complexity-reducing Deleuzean figurations (2010 :590)


Incidentally, the tilde (~) is used to join words ‘to signal a conjoining of co-implicated notions in what we think of as complicity, i.e. thinking that is complicit with writing and simultaneously vice versa. Complicit in this sense is not so much “wrongful” as not “rightfully”‘ (2010: 610)  So now you know.

Nevertheless, Deleuzian terminology can be used critically, and, actually rather metaphorically after all. They cite an article which


refers to the insight that a paradigm shift draws attention to distinctions between two positions, whereas a discursive move emerges from a desire to bring different thinking to a tradition of thought. In Deleuzian terms the former striates, the latter smooths. We have also experienced this recently in our institution’s committees and working parties where we waste time engaged in cross-talk – situations in which our colleagues are so busy working on what their point is and what to say next (striating) that they never get to listen to what else is being said (smoothing)....’ (2010: 591).


So we have ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ used – as metaphors? The usual list of additional concepts appear as well:


Concepts such as assemblage, deterritorialisation, lines of flight, nomadology and rhizome/rhizomatics provided further ways to imagine spatial relationships and to conceive ourselves and other objects  moving in space. For example, I found Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987, 23) distinction between the ‘sedentary point of view’ that characterises much western philosophy, history and science, and a ‘nomadic subjectivity’ that allows thought to move across conventional categories and move against ‘settled’ concepts and theories, to be a clear incitement to ‘push propositions and suppositions beyond their limits’. These concepts invite us to see the ordinary extra-ordinarily and to see-think-write-picture differently. (2010: 598)


Sellers goes on, inevitably and in a way which characterises the genre, to reveal some personal therapeutic implications as well.


Rhizo-imaginary is my signalling of a  move to discourse that is beyond present language, or a situation wherein I am lost for words. This is a state that is somewhere between being ‘tongue-tied’ and ‘stuttering’, where mind is knowing, but words are not working. It is a state often resolved by turning to pictures and/or sounds, especially abstractions. For many years I was embarrassed when this situation arose; I now take notice of it and work towards revealing it, sometimes with overt silence (I suddenly cease talking), sometimes with discussion (I attempt to explain what I am feeling). What I have come to understand of this state is that it is not deficit – it is generative. It is not a lack on my part but a realisation of emergent new thinking. The thrust of this essay, which concerns authentic deployment of Deleuzo-Guattarian workings in educational philosophy, attempts to discuss how we have engaged in our deployment and why we consider it authentic. In so doing we seek not only to affirm using Deleuze and Guattari for our purposes but also to demonstrate how this is generatively affective for our work. (2010: 592).


You will have spotted that the strikethrough of the word ‘authentic’ is a Derridavian technique to indicate the use of a term that is to be discussed. Sellers and Gough ‘place “authentic” sous rature [under erasure] to indicate its use in a sense that draws on aspects of “genuine” and “honest” but without determining or fixing those in any way whatsoever. We compare it to an agreement sealed with a handshake and eye contact. Both parties know and understand their agreement’ (2010: 610).

The approach has worldwide significance though:


We recognise writing together as an approach to immanent emergent meaning-making: releasing rhizomes flush with matters of expression affecting the micropolitical through, ‘pragmatically intervening at the smallest levels in order to ensure that the dominant kinds of subjectivity produced by Integrated World Capitalism do not win out’ (Gosenko 2009, 25).. In a Deleuzo-Guattarian spirit of co-authoring, we perform an assemblage of empathetic responses to thinking (differently) (2010: 609)



You have probably seen enough to be able to decide if this sort of thing helps or not, so let’s consider some other ‘applications’...

Gale (2010) says that Deleuze taught him that formal institutional territories in current UK educational organisations can be de- and re-territorialized. Teachers resisting educational organisations can become nomadic, occupying ‘spaces that are always shifting between the smooth and the striated’ (2010: 304). Deleuzian concepts are a resource to resist dominating neoliberal definitions and policies operating with rigid schemes of work, rigid assessment criteria, and evidence-based practice. The Deleuzian discussion of (Bergsonian) creative evolution should help participants recognise that concepts are not fixed, that teaching and learning is complex and transgressive, innovative and multiple: this is clearly destabilising as far as conventional systems are concerned. ‘Teaching in this sense would be a lived practice of constant becoming, based upon risk taking and disidentification, offering disruption, challenges to the habitual, and invitations into the unknown...opening up and allowing the senses to be alert to all that is new, this nomadic freeing of the self’(Gale 2010: 307).


Concepts like the ‘fold’, the ‘nomad’ and the ‘rhizome’ were ‘immediately useful and helped me try to think outside both the overcoded qualitative research process and the notions of the subject I had studied’, reports St Pierre (2004: 288). Her students enjoyed taking up selected Deleuzian concepts, in this case ‘multiplicity, bodies–without–organs, faciality and insomnia in response to their own problems’ (2004: 284, original emphasis). I must say I have found the last two to be particularly obscure myself. American educational policy had wanted to introduce randomised controlled trials as the only method for research, and new concepts were required to resist, including those that particularly challenged positivism. Resistance to Government policy had begun and will continue, and Deleuze can help us to ‘imagine a time to come in which the struggle may change’ (St Pierre, 2004: 293). When teaching these concepts: ‘I have certainly seen my own students in all areas of education produce simply thrilling lines of flight in response to concepts like the rhizome, nomad, bodies without organs, and so forth’ (St Pierre, 2004: 293).  These are excellent students, especially if they have worked with the original writing.


Encountering Deleuze’s critique of the humanist subject produced a different personal reaction though: it provided St Pierre with ‘the most difficult task of my life’ in rethinking her position (2004: 288). She seems to have coped by working through the notion of an assemblage ‘This Deleuzian assemblage made sense to me. I got it, or, rather, I plugged it (however one makes sense of it) into my own musings about subjectivity and it worked’ (St Pierre 2004: 289).  This could be a classic example of conventional ‘recognition’, however, a procedure explicitly ruled out in Deleuzian philosophy as we shall see.  At least St Pierre recognises the problem—Gale and Sellers and Gough seem to be operating cheerfully with a conventional notion of the creative subject repressed by external authority [more on Deleuze’s  critique of the subject below].


Hodgson and Standish (2009) have analysed similar responses in an earlier enthusiasm for different French poststructuralist writers, especially Foucault, among UK educationalists, and they identify an underlying ‘social justice’ agenda as an important part of grasping theoretical positions. According to this view, a generalised poststructuralism was used to deny or avoid grand metanarratives and the possibility of universal truths; knowledge was therefore subjective, and ‘socially constructed’, given authority by power relations (Hodgson & Standish 2009: 320).  However, there is ‘a reluctance to let go of the stable human subject’ (2009: 314), which has the effect of missing parts of poststructuralist interrogation of the very construction of subjectivity, even in less obviously authoritarian power/knowledge regimes.  To discuss the full poststructuralist critique would seem abstract and irrelevant to the specialism of Education. As a result, even ‘empowering’ practice runs the risk of constructing its own subject positions for students, including addressing them only as members of, spokespersons for, or even enemies of the oppressed. Hodgson and Standish think that reading Deleuze will avoid some of these tendencies, on the grounds that Deleuzian concepts are too uncompromising to be incorporated. However, this would not apply if Deleuze himself were being read, initially and pragmatically, as a constructed spokesperson for an ‘empowering’ subject position as well.


Semetsky does face, head on, the critique of the conventional humanist subject in Deleuzian work. Semetsky (2006: 12) sees this as a liberating reading of the processes of subjectivation, escaping the ideological effects of the conventional American notions of ‘selfhood’ and promising a liberating ‘becoming-other’.  This view would certainly seem to be congruent with Guattari’s work in group psychotherapy, aiming to re-establish adequate links with ‘alterity’. This has implications for conventional pedagogy, he argues, although he sees the links operating in non-subjective terms, through ‘material energetic and semiotic Fluxes; concrete and abstract machinic Phylums; virtual Universes of value; finite existential Territories’ (Guattari, 1995: 124). It is not clear whether Semetsky would accept the challenging possibility of becoming not just another human being but becoming-animal as well: discussing the famous Freudian case study of Little Hans, for example, Deleuze and Guattari (2004: 284) suggest there might be ‘as yet unknown assemblage that would be neither Hans’ nor the horse’s but that of the becoming–horse for Hans’.


Semetsky (2009) particularly focuses on the processes of overcoming the ‘paradox of learning’, which involves students managing new ideas by either tracing material to what they know already, or simply rejecting anything too challenging and outside their experience. She cites Deleuze and Guattari (1994) in arguing that it is not just concepts that are required in learning, but ‘percepts’ and ‘affects’ as well, and goes on to argue that Dewey would agree on the need to engage the arts and the emotions in generating these necessary additions. However, she notes that there are objective dimensions too.  Deleuze and Guattari (1994: 164) themselves say that ‘Sensations, percepts, and affects are beings whose validity lies in themselves and exceeds any lived. They could be said to exist in the absence of man [sic] because man, as he is caught in stone, on the canvas, or by words, is himself a compound of percepts and affects’. This passage could mean that Deleuze’s objective dimension is not just the conventional social reality, external culture, and social others, that individual actors encounter when they learn, but something that exceeds even that – the virtual, that which constitutes all that is empirical or actual, including social reality and the human subject.


Curiously, Semetsky does not consider one major area of discussion in Deleuzian work – cinema as pedagogy [but we consider it later]. Tomlinson and Galatea in their translators’ introduction to Deleuze (1989: xiv) argue that ‘cinema...[above all]... gives conceptual construction new dimensions, those of the percept and affect... This is ... a kind of provoked becoming of thought’. Semetsky’s omission could arise because studies of cinema and of educational systems are conventionally separated, even opposed, in the academic field. Perhaps studies of cinema would also look ‘irrelevant’ to an educationalist? [I discuss some issues below].


Semetsky (2006: 39) draws a number of other parallels between Deleuze on learning and the traditions of American pragmatism. Peirce is certainly referenced explicitly in Deleuze’s work on the cinema (for example in the Glossary, Deleuze, 1989: 335) and Semetsky develops strong similarities between them. She concludes that ‘Imagination functions so as to create a vision of realities “that cannot be exhibited under existing conditions of sense-perception” [quoting Dewey]......instead they constitute Peirce’s and Deleuze’s...virtual realities’.


Semetsky sees Deleuzian becoming as the equally popular term ‘autopoiesis’, and lines of flight become Deweyan ways to break with conceptual and social habits.  She says that Deleuze argued that the conventional master-pupil relationship needs to be replaced by encouraging more creative exploration from pupils (Semetsky, 2006: 76), although this arises specifically in the context of a particular revolution in thinking in mathematics (Deleuze, 2004: chapter 4), and is probably confined to researchers in that field.


Finally, Semetsky suggests that ‘the binary opposition between content and expression becomes blurred, leading to the emergence of a new property: a highly expressive, passionate language...At the ontological level, this indicates, for Deleuze, the univocity of Being’ (Semetsky, 2006: 60).


This last example is particularly relevant in showing the difficulties again, because ‘the univocity of Being’ is at the centre of a possibly quite different reading of Deleuze. The educational theorists we have discussed, like many others discussed by Badiou (2000), see Deleuze as a promoter of multiplicities of desires, an opponent of totalitarianism, and an advocate of creativity in a wide range of fields, but, for Badiou, underneath this position is consecration of the One, a single voice, ‘“a single clamor of Being for all beings”’ (Badiou, 2000: 11, quoting Difference and Repetition). Desire aims at attaining this One, not at the autonomy of the individual. In particular, ‘automatic’ learning, clearly implying the idea of a universal machinery, selects individuals and makes them choose.  Deleuze is really arguing that we must make thought exist through us, by renouncing subjective needs, not developing them, allowing ourselves to be 'constrained to the world's play' (Badiou, 2000: 12). This is an aristocratic conception, for Badiou, requiring actual individuals to become dominated by the virtual, 'And individuals are not equally capable of this' (2000: 13). [Incidentally, Badiou has given a number of lectures, like this one,  available on You Tube, explaining how you can develop an ontology without invoking any underlying One as the origin of everything).


There is no intention to declare one reading ‘right’ and others ‘wrong’: Semetsky and Badiou are equally impressive Deleuzian scholars who often quote the same arguments but interpret them differently. The problem is always to decide if specific applications are selective reductions of Deleuzian thought to conventional thinking after all, as the only way to make it apply to existing practice. If so, this might suggest that other constraints, commitments and possibilities are informing these readings, not purely technical considerations. There could be an important element, revealed in Hodgson’s and Standish’s work, reflecting the dominance of the ideological and practical components in teacher training, which reject extensive philosophising, and perhaps the discussion of pedagogy beyond that which goes on in schools, as irrelevant and abstract ‘theory’.  There may be national intellectual contexts, so that British theorists might pursue links with Foucault and poststructuralism, while American ones see parallels with Dewey and Peirce. We might expect to find micropolitical commitments as well in all the authors we have cited.  Open discussion of those ‘preconceptual’ commitments could be useful as the tasks of translation or application are attempted.

A remarkably scholarly account is found in Olsson's attempt to understand progressive practice in Swedish preschools in the terms provided by Deleuze and Guattari too.  This is a wide ranging study, citing a number of texts by our heroes, including some still in French which she has translated herself.  One of these is some work by Mozère, who apparently collaborated with Deleuze and Guattari and developed her own ideas about progressive primary education [some of which is in English].  There is no doubt that most of the full implications of Deleuzian philosophy have been recognized in this piece, in the discussions of ontology in the Epilogue, and in various sections about subjectivity especially.  There are also hints of the earlier poststructuralist problematic, however, and a reliance on the argument about pragmatic approaches,  ‘what one can do with this particular theory in relation to this particular practice’ (122).  She knows that other ways of treating the material were possible, and these are discussed in the footnotes.  However, this study has been about pedagogy not philosophy as such, and since all scientific theories are based on suppositions and choices, the point was to develop some of the choices made in this study rather than criticizing or comparing it.  ‘The concepts have been used only exactly as much as was needed in relation to the empirical material’ (124). The problem has been to decide 'how to work with movement and experimentation in subjectivity and learning in early childhood education practice and research' (179). The study  was aimed at formulating a problem rather than arising out a solution, and Deleuze and Guattari themselves say that it is not just a matter of truth and falsity, but also whether work is  interesting remarkable or important.  Olsson knows that there is a danger of superficiality, and she pleads lack of time  and resources to provide anything more.  However, Deleuzian philosophy is surely far in excess of anything that might be required to justify or defend experimental pedagogy in Swedish preschools.

Olsson works with concepts like ‘desire, micro politics and the event’ (101), the singularity as  'essentially preindividual, non personal and aconceptual' (115),  assemblages of desire, desiring machines, collective assemblages of enunciation, 'a-lives, virtuality, crystal time and becoming' (189) . She cites the usual stuff on de- and reterritorialization, lines of flight and rhizomes, but also cites the discussion in Logic of Sense  on the implication of nonsense with sense-making (so we should see kids' fantasies not just as nonsense stories but as sense making --OK if you equate Lewis Carroll and Artaud with preschool kids' stories). As the last in the list of concepts indicates, she also cites  at least some bits of Difference and Repetition and Cinema 2. She talks of 'relational fields',which may be Deleuzian, and planes of immanence

The pragmatic issue really arises, in my view, in that Olsson needs to successfully manage and negotiate various aspects of teacher politics.  Preschool teachers evidently feel under some pressure to acquire postgraduate qualifications, and this is clearly an interest in the Swedish research schools she mentions, especially the one in Stockholm of which the features are particularly important writer—Dahlberg—who has also produced the series in which this book appears.  Dahlberg appears to be mostly keen on Foucault, in his expanded politics phase, the one that gained so much attention in the UK and America as well according to Hodgson and Standish as we saw.  This can take quite a paranoid turn, insisting that even preschool kids are being dominated by various regimes of subjecification and control: 'intense governing of the learning child', as the blurb on the back of this book indicates.  To satisfy that audience, Olsson clearly has to go along with the paranoia and also the claim to expertise that it involves.  Annoyingly, a text I did not know before seems to support this reading of Deleuze as an extended politics merchant himself, in a dialogue he had with Foucault in Desert Islands.  There are, however, other claims to expertise engaged as well, not least the teachers who already work in preschools.  Olsson has a difficult task here.  On the one hand, she can fully support their existing progressive pedagogy, against any possible attempts to replace it with standardised pedagogy based on child development and quantifiable means of evaluation and measurement. I don't know if that is or was a real threat in Sweden: it might just be that preschool teachers encountered that approach when they were training, and they might have to deal with it in various inservice courses as well?.  Deleuze can easily be made into an ally here. 

However, Deleuze is a formidable theorist, and they tend to get a bad press with teachers as well, and be suspected of either imposing theories or challenging practical expertise.  Olsson is quite careful at times to argue that she is denying that role for theory and research as well, that she sees critique as based on a dubious transcendental premise involving a reflexive subject, and that she thinks Deleuze says we should work with various kinds of practice.  Indeed, theory itself is only a kind of practice [although I'm not sure if this refers to scientific theories rather than philosophy]: in any event, seeing Deleuze as critical of existing practices is bound to be almost inevitable, and Olsson has to perform some strange maneuvers. She eases up on the critique of conventional thinking,partly by taking a pragmatic line again as if the ends were what counted after all.  She insists that Deleuzian philosophy is not that strange after all—kids are already doing things like becoming and living with emerging subjectivities.  Less explicitly, there is a hint that preschool teachers are also somehow natural Deleuzians—Olsson cites Deleuze saying that it is possible to be a natural Spinozist.  The danger with this position of course is that it does tend to make the difficult scholastic labour to penetrate Deleuzian concepts and arguments largely irrelevant, if practice already reveals the essentials.  I must say this is my own opinion at the end of the day, and, as with Semetsky, it would be quite easy to support progressive preschool practice without citing Deleuze and Guattari at all, but by relying on the usual kinds of progressive theory.  Olsson would face demands from her other audiences here, of course—she has to deliver proper academic knowledge in order to gain her doctorate, and she also has to show that she is aware of the flaws in the earlier work.

The problems are apparent in her discussion of projects that Swedish preschool kids undertake ( and I quote from my notes on Olsson):

Example   The project had focused on the heart and its rhythm, and the kids used drawings to show each other their ideas.  Teachers provided stethoscopes, paper and pen.  Kids ran round and discovered their hearts beating faster.  They tried to illustrate changes in rhythm.  Teacher documents and then they discuss what they think has happened.  Two girls used numbers to measure rhythms [larger numbers mean faster rhythms rather than anything actually metric], other girls draw dots [of different sizes or density?].  Kids are fascinated by hearing their hearts and also by the ‘mathematical logic of the rhythm and the possibility to illustrate this in different ways’ (65).  They also swap ideas although they don’t speak to each other -- communication ‘beyond the spoken word’ then (66).  Teachers discussed their documentation before suggesting any ways forward.  They had been selective in their observations according to what they ‘found most interesting’, but this upset some of the children, and they lose interest.  This shows that what kids find of interest is not the same as what teachers do.  Teachers rethink and organize a discussion with the original illustrations and all observations, and this does lead to an agreement on what to do next—work outside.  This time  ‘The children are intensely engaged in the activity and they find many different sounds that they can start illustrating by drawing’ (67).  This time they try new borrowed techniques.  Teachers ‘are fascinated and curious about the flow of ideas, strategies and activities that are exchanged’, although this is hard to observe [and document?].  They ask if kids want to continue, this time working in pairs to make sounds with their mouths that they can then illustrate and playback as a charade—the kids do so immediately, and ‘this creates an intense atmosphere in the room with a lot of activity and laughter, followed by many other related activities over a period of time’ (69) [with lots of photos and illustrations]. 

Olsson describes this as ‘delicate negotiation…  wandering back and forward…  continuous exchanging’, an example of a line of flight.  These are favoured in certain conditions—for example when children are no longer seen as individuals according to psychological theory.  There is cooperative work for example in swapping the strategies.  Teachers and kids meet around a problem.  The problem is constructed.  The emphasis is on relational fields and flow rather than rigid lines.  The interests of kids ‘are treated like contagious trends and they do not reside in each individual.  This is exactly where lines of flight are born’ (71). 

I just don't know if Deleuzian notions like lines of flight are needed here. The whole thing reads like a bit of a talk-up -- everyone is intensely engaged and all that. Olsson has simply 'recognized' the events in Deleuzian terms, surely, and for partisan reasons?

In the second project,
five kids worked with an OHP [making shadows with themselves and with various objects projected on to a sheet. Kids could go behind the sheet]. It started looking at photos, but the teachers decided, after observation, that light and shadow seem to be of more interest. Teachers are also taking a course at the Stockholm Institute of Education, and discussing it. Their worry was that they wanted to move the children on, but not intervene excessively—they decided not to intervene but to do more observation. Eventually, one kid moved an object on the OHP, and another kid noticed the effect of doing this. The whole group got excited, began dancing and shouting "The Ghost, the Ghost!" (136). Apparently, the expression on children's faces showed this was a matter of some intensity: whenever the ghost appeared 'The entire group was up and running, dancing and screaming: "The Ghost, the Ghost!" [Actually the picture shows one child of the three apparently not very moved at all, 137]. The first, teachers imagined that ghosts were scary, and thought about pursuing that line, but again decided to wait and discussed the photographs of the children—a possibility was that the ghost was 'ritual for celebrating when they have discovered something new, or when they stand in front of something that they do not understand but that interests them and excites them' (138), and this was supported by further observations. The kids developed an interest in comparing shadows of different sizes, and then turned to dressing up in costumes to make shadow effects and then make stories. They use the OHP throughout the year. Their behaviour became ritualized—they put costumes on first. They negotiated with each other and 'brought each other in all the time'. Teachers observed and gave the documents back to the children for discussion, including displaying it—kids talked about the pictures and sometimes reenacted what they were doing.

Olsson says this shows that desire was turned on its head. It was not a lack, but something that emerged with teachers' help. Children's questions and problems were 'considered as possible productions of new realities and new ways of thinking, talking and acting' (142). They were not to be tamed. They revealed intense etc. experimentation involving everybody. The project was intended to 'hook up' with children's desires. Desire is then discussed further—it is usually seen as a lack, something that we want to acquire, often treated as a fantasy which is then coded in Freudian psychoanalysis. The notion of lack is also apparent in some practices in early childhood education, especially those based on developmental psychology, where desire is replaced by a vocabulary of needs. However these needs are also constructions, and also 'repress and tame' desire (143). Desire is only used to motivate children to achieve predetermined goals. This makes children look needy and in need of redirection. Instead,
we can see hear a form of desiring production suitable for academic and pedagogical institutions, a form of modulation of the dominant processes (which is really only what educational institutions can do -- Olsson draws on Massumi's politics here).

So -- talk up of banalities or analysis based on essential concepts found in D&G? You decide, O Reader...

OK –let's turn to Deleuze and Guattari ourselves?


The most immediate problem is that there is a massive disconnect between the raw D&G and the accounts described above.  Some of it is explained by context -- I  would love to see what St Pierre’s students actually did. Were they still pursuing lines of flight when the deadline loomed for assignments? Did they really relish reading Deleuze and Guattari (see below),or were they playing a game, trying to echo professorial talk? Here are some examples of what they might have read, drawn from my online notes on AntiOedipus (D&G 1984), and Thousand Plateaus (D&G 2004) [Please note the dates of the English editions are misleading as a guide to the actual time of writing.]


The rhizome -- 'The multiple must be made, not by always adding a higher dimension but ...with the number of dimensions one already has available -- always n-1 ( the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted). Subtract the unique from the multiplicity to be constructed: write at n-1 dimensions...A system of this kind would be called a rhizome' (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 7).


Becoming --becoming and multiplicity are the same thing. A multiplicity is defined not by its elements, nor by a center of unification or comprehension. It is defined by the number of dimensions it has; it is not divisible, it cannot lose or gain a dimension without changing its nature [So no essentialism?]. Since its variations and dimensions are immanent to it, it amounts to the same thing to say that each multiplicity is already composed of heterogeneous terms in symbiosis, and that a multiplicity is continually transforming itself into a string of other multiplicities, according to its thresholds and doors. For example, the Wolf-Man’s pack of wolves also becomes a swarm of bees, and a field of anuses, and a collection of small holes and tiny ulcerations (the theme of contagion): all these heterogeneous elements compose “the" multiplicity of symbiosis and becoming. If we imagined the position of a fascinated Self, it was because the multiplicity toward which it leans, stretching to the breaking point, is the continuation of another multiplicity that works it and strains it from the inside. In fact, the self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two multiplicities. Each multiplicity is defined by a borderline functioning as Anomalous, but there is a string of borderlines, a continuous line of borderlines (fiber) following which the multiplicity changes. And at each threshold or door, a new pact? A fiber stretches from a human to an animal, from a human or an animal to molecules, from molecules to particles, and so on to the imperceptible. Every fiber is a Universe fiber. A fiber strung across borderlines constitutes a line of flight or of deterritorialization. It is evident that the Anomalous, the Outsider, has several functions: not only does it border each multiplicity, of which it determines the temporary or local stability (with the highest number of dimensions possible under the circumstances), not only is it the precondition for the alliance necessary to becoming, but it also carries the transformations of becoming or crossings of multiplicities always farther down the line of  flight. Moby—Dick is the White Wall bordering the pack; he is also the demonic Term of the Alliance; finally, he is the terrible Fishing Line with nothing on the other end, the line that crosses the wall and drags the captain . . . where? Into the void . . . (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 275)

The human subject
– ‘Even linguistics is not immune from the same prejudice, inasmuch as it is inseparable from a personology; according to linguistics, in addition to the indefinite article and the pronoun, the third-person pronoun also lacks the determination of subjectivity that is proper to the first two persons and is supposedly the necessary condition for all enunciation. We believe on the contrary that the third person indefinite, HE, THEY, implies no indetermination from this point of view it ties the statement to a collective assemblage, as its necessary condition, rather than to a subject of the enunciation. Blanchot is correct in saying that ONE and HE-0ne is dying, he is unhappy—in no Way take the place of a subject, but instead do away with any subject in favor of an assemblage of the haecceity type that carries or brings out the event insofar as it is unformed and incapable of being effectuated by persons ("something happens to them that they can only get a grip on again by letting go of their ability to say I"). The HE does not represent a subject but rather makes a diagram of an assemblage. It does not overcode statements, it does not transcend them as do the first two persons; on the contrary, it prevents them from falling under the tyranny of subjective or signifying constellations, under the regime of empty redundancies. The contents of the chains of expression it articulates are those that can be assembled for a maximum number of occurrences and becomings. "They arrive like fate   Where do they come from, how have they pushed this far . . .?" He or one, indefinite article, proper name, infinitive verb: A HANS TO BECOME HORSE, A PACK NAMED WOLF TO LOOK AT HE, ONE TO DIE, WASP TO MEET ORCHID, THEY ARRIVE HUNS. [sic –original caps] Classified ads, telegraphic machines on the plane of consistency (once again, We are reminded of the procedures of Chinese poetry and the rules for translation suggested by the best commentators) (TP 292)


Faciality – ‘The move from the body-head system to the face system has nothing to do with an evolution or genetic stages. Nor with phenomenological positions. Nor with integrations of part-objects, or structural or structuring systems. Nor can there be any appeal to a preexisting subject, or one brought into existence, except by this machine specific to faciality. In the literature of the face, Sartre’s text on the look and Lacan’s on the mirror make the error of appealing to a form of subjectivity or humanity reflected in a phenomenological field or split in a structural field. The gaze is that secondary in relation to the gazeless eyes, to the black hole of faciality. The mirror is that secondary in relation to the white wall of faciality. Neither will we speak of a genetic axis, or the integration of part-objects. Any approach based on stages in ontogenesis is arbitrary: it is thought that what is fastest is primary, or even serves as a foundation or springboard for what comes next. An approach based on part-objects is even Worse; it is the approach of a demented experimenter who flays, slices, and anatomizes everything in sight, and then proceeds to sew things randomly back together again. You can make any list of part-objects you want: hand, breast, mouth, eyes . . . It’s still Frankenstein. What we need to consider is not fundamentally organs without bodies, or the fragmented body; it is the body without organs, animated by various intensive movements that determine the nature and emplacement of the organs in question and make that body an organism, or even a system of strata of which the organism is only a part. It becomes apparent that the slowest of movements, or the last to occur or arrive, is not the least intense. And the fastest may already have converged with it, connected with it, in the disequilibrium of a non- synchronic development of strata that have different speeds and lack a sequence of stages but are nevertheless simultaneous. The question of the body is not one of part-objects but of differential speeds. (2004: 190).


Smooth and striated space -- We have on numerous occasions encountered all kinds of differences between two types of multiplicities: metric and nonmetric; extensive and qualitative; centered and acentered; arborescent and rhizomatic; numerical and flat; dimensional and directional; of masses and of packs; of magnitude and of distance; of breaks and of frequency; striated and smooth. Not only is that which peoples a smooth space a multiplicity that changes in nature when it divides-—such as tribes in the desert: constantly modified distances, packs that are always undergoing metamorphosis— but smooth space itself, desert, steppe, sea, or ice, is a multiplicity of this type, nonmetric, acentered, directional, etc. Now it might be thought that the Number would belong exclusively to the other multiplicities, that it would accord them the scientific status nonmetric multiplicities lack. But this is only partially true. it is true that the number is the correlate of the metric: magnitudes can striate space only by reference to numbers, and conversely, numbers are used to express increasingly complex relations between magnitudes, thus giving rise to ideal spaces reinforcing the striation and making it coextensive with all of matter. There is therefore a correlation within metric multiplicities between geometry and arithmetic, geometry and algebra, which is constitutive of major science (the most profound authors in this respect are those who have seen that the number, even in its simplest forms, is exclusively cardinal in character, and the unit exclusively divisible)."It could be said on the other hand that nonmetric multiplicities or the multiplicities of smooth space pertain only to a minor geometry that is purely operative and qualitative, in which calculation is necessarily very limited, and the local operations of which are not even capable of a general translatability or a homogeneous system of location (2004: 534—5).


Abstract machines – ‘But if abstract machines know nothing of form and substance, what happens to the other determination of strata, or even of assemblages—content and expression? 1n a certain sense, it could be said that this distinction is also irrelevant to the abstract machine, [3] precisely because it no longer has the forms and substances the distinction requires. The plane of consistency is a plane of continuous variation; each abstract machine can be considered a "plateau" of  variation that places variables of content and expression in continuity. Content and expression thus attain their highest level of relativity, becoming "functives of one and the same function" or materials of a single matter [see 4, "November 20, 1923: Postulates of Linguistics” note 2 1—Trans.]. But in another sense, it could be said [4 ]that the distinction subsists, and is even recreated, on the level of and traits: there are traits of content (unformed matters or intensities) [and 5] traits of expression (nonformal functions or tensors). Here, the dis tinction has become entirely displaced, or even a different distinction, since it now concerns cutting edges of deterritorialization. Absolute deterritorialization implies a “deterritorializing element" and a "deterritorialized element” one of which in each case is allocated to expression, the other to content, or vice versa, but always in such a way as to convey a relative distinction between the two. Thus both content and expression are necessarily affected by continuous variation, but it still assigns them two dissymmetrical roles as elements of a single becoming, or as quanta of a single flow. That is why it is impossible to define a continuous variation that would not take in both the content and the expression, rendering them indiscernible, while simultaneously proceeding by one or the other, determining the two mobile and relative poles of that which has become indiscernible. For this reason, one must define both traits or intensities of content [1,2] and traits or tensors of expression (indefinite article, proper name, 4,10 infinitive, and date), which take turns leading one another across the plane of consistency. Unformed matter, the phylum, is not dead, brute homogeneous matter but a matter-movement bearing singularities or haecceities.’ (2004: 562—3) NB the numbers in the text which I have put in square brackets are set off in the left margin in the original – dunno why)


Body without organs —‘The body without organs is like the cosmic egg, the giant molecule swarming with worms, bacilli, Lilliputian figures, animalcules, and homunculi, with their organization and their machines, minute strings, ropes, teeth, fingernails, levers and pulleys, catapults: thus in Schreber the millions of spermatazoids in the sunbeams, or the souls that lead a brief existence as little men on his body. Artaud says: this world of microbes, which is nothing more than coagulated nothingness. The two sides of the body without organs are, therefore, the side on which the mass phenomenon and the paranoiac investment corresponding to it are organized on a microscopic scale, and the other side on which, on a submicroscopic scale, the molecular phenomena and their schizophrenic investment are arranged. It is on the body without organs, as a pivot, as a frontier between the molar and the molecular, that the paranoia-schizophrenia division is made. Are we to believe, then, that social investments are secondary projections, as if a large two-headed schizonoiac, father of the primitive horde, were at the base of the socius in general? We have seen that this is not at all the case. The socius is not a projection of the body without organs; rather, the body without organs is the limit of the socius, its tangent of deterritorialization, the ultimate residue of a deterritorialized socius. The socius—the earth, the body of the despot, capital-money—are clothed full bodies, just as the body without organs is a naked full body; but the latter exists at the limit, at the end, not at the origin. And doubtless the body without organs haunts all forms of socius. But in this very sense, if social investments can be said to be paranoiac or schizophrenic, it is to the extent that they have paranoia and schizophrenia as ultimate products under the determinate conditions of capitalism. (Deleuze and Guattari 1984: 281).


Desiring machines – ‘Here are the desiring-machines, with their three parts: the working parts, the immobile motor, the adjacent part; their three forms of energy: Libido, Numen, and Voluptas; and their three syntheses: ie connective syntheses of partial objects and flows, the disjunctive syntheses of singularities and chains, and the conjunctive syntheses of intensities and becomings. The schizoanalyst is not an interpreter, even less a theater director; he is a mechanic, a micromechanic. There are no  excavations to be  undertaken, no archaeology, no statues in the unconscious: there are only stones to be sucked, a la Beckett, and other machinic elements belonging to deterritorialized constellations. The task of schizoanalysis is that of learning what a subject’s desiring-machines are, how they work, with what syntheses, what bursts of energy in the machine, what constituent misfires, with what flows, what chains, and  what becomings in each case. Moreover, this positive task cannot be separated from indispensable destructions, the destruction of the molar aggregates, the structures and representations that prevent the machine from functioning. lt is not easy to rediscover the molecules-even the giant molecule——their paths, their zones of presence, and their own syntheses, amid the large accumulations that fill the preconscious, and that delegate their representatives in the unconscious itself, thereby immobilizing the machines, silencing them, trapping them, sabotaging them, cornering them, holding them fast. In the unconscious it is not the lines of pressure that matter, but on the contrary the lines of escape. The unconscious does not apply pressure to consciousness; rather consciousness applies pressure and strait-jackets the unconscious, to prevent its escape. As to the unconscious, it is like the Platonic opposite whose opposite draws near: it flees or it perishes. What we have tried to show from the outset is how the unconscious productions and formations were not merely repelled by an agency of psychic repression that would enter into compromises with them, but actually covered over by antiformations that disfigure the unconscious in itself, and impose  on it causations, comprehensions, and expressions that no longer have anything to do with its real functioning: thus all the statues, the Oedipal images, the phantasmal mises en scène, the Symbolic of castration,the effusion of the death instinct, the perverse reterritorializations’. (1984: 338—9).

And in a tribute to Olsson and her hard work, try this from Logic of Sense:

Events as effects combine past and present, active and passive, all of which are located elsewhere as causes.  The relation between events can only be quasi-causes.  Stoics saw dialectical analysis as explorations of these combinations, once they had been expressed in propositions—dialectics as conjugation.  Language also enables us to go beyond events into the possible or becoming.  The relation between propositions and specifics is itself still paradoxical—‘Chryssipus taught “If you say something it passes through your lips, so if you say “chariot”, a chariot passes through your lips’ (8).  It is deliberate nonsense in the Anglo American sense, or humorous play on the surface, as opposed to an ironic exploration of depths and heights.  Lewis Carroll did something similar in Alice....Events are only known in the context of the problem they are determining, and we need a language to describe events in general in their field, and how they are realized.  Paradox can be seen as a particular problem related to singular points, but again some empty square or ‘aleatory point’ must be involved, enabling events to communicate in an unusual way.  Paradox therefore illustrates the relation of events: it is ‘the Unique event, in which all events communicate and are distributed’ (56).  Paradox alludes to this ‘singular being’, corresponding to ‘the question as such’ (57).


I am not saying that this sort of stuff does not make sense: it does, eventually, after a lot of patient scholarly labour which took me months and months. God knows how busy students might cope. Olsson is a great hero to get as far as she did. I think Deleuze and Guattari ought to be condemned for making it all so difficult just so they could experiment with style.


Badiou, A. (2000). Deleuze The Clamor of Being. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (on line notes by me here)

Deleuze, G. (1995). Negotiations. New York: Columbia University Press.(see my notes here)

Deluze, G. (2004) Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953--74. New York : Semiotext(e)

Deleuze, G. no date. Lectures on Spinoza.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1984).  Anti-Oedipus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: The Athlone Press.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (2004).  A Thousand Plateaus, London: Continuum. ( some notes here)

Gale, K.  (2010). An Inquiry In To The Ethical Nature of a Deleuzian Creative Educational Practice. Qualitative Inquiry, 16, no. 5, 303 –08. doi: 10.1177/1077800409358869
Hodgson, N.  and P. Standish. (2009). Uses and misuses of poststructuralism in educational research. International Journal of Research and Method in Education 32, no. 3: 309—26.

Sellers, W. and Gough, N. (2010).  Sharing outsider thinking: thinking (differently) with Deleuze in educational philosophy and curriculum inquiry. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23, no. 5, 589—614.
 doi: 10.1080/09518398.2010.500631

Semetsky, I. (2006). Deleuze, Education and Becoming. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Semetsky, I. (2009). Deleuze as a Philosopher of Education: Affective Knowledge/Effective Learning. The European Legacy, 14 (4), 443-56. doi: 10.1080/10848770902999534
St Pierre, E. (2004). Deleuzian Concepts for Education: The subject undone. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 36, no.3, 283-96. doi: